It seems that just when Shabbat starts to “come in” (as my kids say) at a normal hour, the clocks get switched back. With candlelighting at around 4 PM, I have to be organized. Below I post techniques that I have used.
I prefer not to cook in advance. With certain exceptions, food pulled out of the freezer is not as tasty as fresh, and you can’t refreeze leftovers without sacrificing the quality further. And if I cook on Wednesday or Thursday, I’m loath to serve the leftovers on Sunday or Monday.
- Plan menus with an eye toward leftovers. If your side dishes are pareve (neither meat nor dairy), you have more options later. Seasoned potatoes, vegetables, or rice can go in another dish, but not potato kugel. The potatoes or rice are a healthier choice anyway.
- Plan which ingredients I need for each recipe–no need to make a mess of onion peels twice. If you plan to cook vegetables, you can prepare extra and freeze them for another time.
- When freezing, rotate so as not to make too many items in the same week.
- Marinate chicken the night before and refrigerate it, ready to go in the oven on Friday. You can freeze prepared raw chicken and defrost it in the refrigerator over Thursday night. Just don’t refreeze raw meat.
- Avoid unnecessary dish-washing. I chop enough garlic for both the chicken and the techina in the food processor. Then I remove what I need for the chicken and continue making the techina.
- When I make challah, I roll and fill part of the dough for a yeast cake.
- Avoid making a lot of items. Each one must be cooked, stored, served, stored again, the utensils washed, the leftovers used up, and so on. Most people, including guests, prefer fewer items and a less frazzled hostess. One-dish meals work well too, but if they include meat check that your guests aren’t vegetarian. (I’ve found that vegetarians who grew up kosher tend to be stricter about picking vegetables out of meat dishes.)
- Consider preparing meal-sized packages of commonly used combinations. For instance, barley, beans, spices, sliced onions and carrots can be combined and divided into a few containers, then frozen. Add potatoes and meat to the contents of one container, and your cholent is ready to go. Cooked noodles for soup can be stored the same way.
- Most kitchen work involves preparing vegetables, so I peel, wash and chop the day before. If my kids are around to help, even better. Keep in mind the little-known halacha* that peeled onions and garlic should not be left out overnight. Peeled potatoes can be soaked in water to avoid getting brown but with the shortage you will want to have another use for that water. A more nutritious and economical method is to cook unpeeled potatoes and remove the peel after they cool.
- Marinated salads are better cooked in advance, but most undressed cut-up salad vegetables (not tomatoes) can also handle a day or two, or longer, in the refrigerator. I’ve heard that a glass container works better than plastic for this purpose.
*Little-known halacha: A point of Jewish law that I did not know when I got married.
In this post, Trilcat shows how she combines a simple menu with some ready-made items to enjoy a stress-free Friday and a delicious Shabbat.
How do you handle winter Shabbat preparations? Reply in the comments or send me a link to a blog post.